Solution Overview

Solution name:

ArqLan

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One-line solution summary:

Providing a support system that caters for teacher-parent partnerships & engagements to drive learner success through a multilingual family engagement and communication technology platform.

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Which Challenge does your solution most closely address?

Improving Learning Outcomes through Data: How can school leaders in low-resource settings effectively gather student data to improve learning outcomes?
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Pitch your solution.

In the US alone, there are over 40 million low-income, minority students who are falling behind by 2 years compared to their peers. If every parent is fully involved in their child’s education, all children and students can succeed at school - academic research shows that parent engagement predicts a student’s academic success twice as much as how rich that family is. Unfortunately, in underserved or marginalized communities, families face multiple but surmountable barriers to actively engaging. Parents themselves don’t have the same educational background or level as the teachers, which lead to mutual misconceptions, made worse when they don’t speak the same language. Teachers and parents in these communities are also busy, are rarely adequately trained or educated. So while students spend more than 70% of their time outside school, parents struggle to work with their children to best support them.

By designing an innovative platform ‘ArqLan’ we intend to help parents, children 2-12 ages and/or above and teachers across the globe to build partnerships with each other through an intelligent messaging app that uses machine learning and natural language processing to provide personalized coaching for parents and teachers on how to support their children/students learning journey. ArqLan product will specifically have three major components.

  • It works by connecting parents with their students’ teachers and with each other so that they can build trusting, respectful relationships through effective communication, without language, tech or cultural barriers through the two-way translated communication platform
  • The platform also helps in training educators through in-product nudges and coaching modules that can help them work with parents and students.
  • The platform strives to educate parents on how best to help the children both at home with their learning and how best to engage with their children based on personalized content and chatbot-like experience.

Our aim is to provide a personalized education/training for both parents and teachers depending on who they are, who the student is, how they have behaved in the past, what the topic of conversation is between teachers and parents, what’s been learnt in the classroom and past behaviors. Educators and the parents get coaching within the platform, when it is actionable. For example, a parent can start communicating in their own languages with their child’s teacher through mobile app or SMS. ArqLan then suggests to the parent what actionable steps they can take to ensure to help the child. Parents and teachers are also able to communicate in their own languages freely through ArqLan.

With ArqLan therefore, we can be able to unlock the incredible yet untapped potential of parents and families and teachers to support their children's learning. Our vision is to expand to serve the billions of families and educators globally through technology so that no matter what backgrounds they come from, language they speak, what culture they are brought up in, all students can be successful in their learning through close partnerships formed between parents and teachers. We can help every parent become an educator themselves, regardless of who they are.

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In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?

Mbale, Uganda
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Our solution's stage of development:

Concept
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Is this a new solution, an existing solution, or an adaptation of an existing solution?

New solution
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How does your solution incorporate research?

In our efforts to design human-centered education approaches, it is paramount that we engage education stakeholders at different levels in order for us to understand the problem and its magnitude in affecting the lives of its beneficiaries. For this reason, we engage with school owners, teachers, parents, students and communities through focused group discussions where we get hear from them firsthand. We also deploy desktop research to find out how the problem we intend to solve affects the education sector in other areas before innovative for good.

Research shows that parent engagement is a critical part of a student’s academic success. Unfortunately, in underserved or marginalized communities, families face multiple barriers to actively engaging in their child’s education. Differences in educational background, language barriers, and overwhelming work schedules can cause mutual misunderstandings between parents and teachers, making it challenging to work together to support their students.

In one of our research findings for instance, we discovered that there is growing evidence that the quality of school management matters for student learning.

The bulk of research on this question has been conducted in the United States and Canada, where studies have found that school value-added estimates (i.e., year-on-year differences in student achievement, adjusted for school and student characteristics) vary across principals, across schools, and within schools over time (see, e.g., Branch, Hanushek and Rivkin 2012; Dhuey and Smith 2014; Grissom, Kalogrides and Loeb 2015), and where management metrics (e.g., operations, targets, and human-resource practices) are predictive of student achievement (Bloom et al. 2015). In recent years, these measures have been adapted for developing countries (see, e.g., Crawfurd 2017; Leaver, Lemos and Scur 2018; Lemos and Scur 2016).  

Yet, in spite of the growing consensus on the importance of school management, there is very little evidence on effective interventions to improve it in low- and middle-income countries. Until recently, most randomized evaluations had focused on three main types of initiatives: (a) increasing parent and/or community pressure on schools to improve learning outcomes (see, e.g., Banerjee et al. 2010; Barr et al. 2012; Pandey, Goyal and Sundararaman 2009); (b) providing schools with grants (e.g., Beasley and Huillery 2016; Blimpo, Evans and Lahire 2011; Carneiro et al. 2015; Gertler, Patrinos and Rubio-Codina 2012; Mbiti et al. 2019; Pradhan et al. 2014); and (c) subsidizing the demand for or supply of privately schools (e.g., Alderman, Kim and Orazem 2003; Angrist, Bettinger and Kremer 2006; Angrist et al. 2002; Barrera-Osorio and Raju 2015; Barrera-Osorio et al. 2013; Bettinger, Kremer and Saavedra 2010; Muralidharan and Sundararaman 2015; Romero, Sandefur and Sandholtz 2017; Wong et al. 2013). Notably, however, none of these initiatives seeks to improve the capacity of public-school principals.1  

One approach to improve school management that has had promising results in upper-middle income countries is providing principals with information on the achievement of their students. In the Province of La Rioja, Argentina, de Hoyos, Ganimian and Holland (2019) found that offering public primary schools reports that analyzed the performance of their students on standardized tests led principals to use achievement data to inform management decisions, teachers to assign more work during and after school, and students to improve their scores not only on the tests on which the reports were based but also on the national assessment. A related initiative in Mexico had similar results (de Hoyos, García-Moreno and Patrinos 2017).2  

The encouraging findings from these studies raise the question of whether school systems should go one step further and attempt to help principals act on the feedback they receive.

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Who is the Team Lead for your solution?

George Mwangi Maina

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More About Your Solution

What makes your solution innovative?

Research shows that parent engagement is a critical part of a student’s academic success. Unfortunately, in underserved or marginalized communities, families face multiple barriers to actively engaging in their child’s education. Differences in educational background, language barriers, and overwhelming work schedules can cause mutual misunderstandings between parents and teachers, making it challenging to work together to support their students.

To bridge these barriers, ArqLan’s intelligent messaging app uses machine learning and natural language processing to provide personalized coaching for parents and teachers. ArqLan’s multilingual app connects parents and teachers so they can build trusting relationships—without language, tech, or cultural barriers.   

A parent can message their child’s teacher in their own language, and ArqLan’s will suggest some actionable steps they can take to help their child. Teachers go through coaching modules that help them engage with parents and students. The app personalizes educational content for parents and teachers alike, enabling them to work together to best support their students.

We provide a tech-driven solution to parent and teacher education/training - by leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning technology, we’re able to personalize the education through a data-driven, yet, accessible, and scalable way. We also specifically build for low-income, minority and immigrant communities. By contrast, other training programs in the past have been in-person workshops which are time-consuming, high-touch and with uniform content. We also use innovative technology to power our translation combining machine-learning and humans, allowing for culturally relevant translations to enable two-way conversations between teachers and parents, which is becoming an increasing need.

Our multilingual parent engagement platform is a software intended to solve the problem of parent-teacher partnership and training - this use of technology makes us highly scalable and accessible to reach a large number of people. We're developing a natural language processing algorithm and a machine learning engine to analyze topics of conversations and to build a content recommendation engine. As this continues to grow (which is at a fast pace), our algorithms and chatbot experience will improve significantly, and be able to provide content and nudges in anticipation (and not retrospectively), and continuously improve the content through the process. 


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What is your theory of change?

Our theory of change is driven by the virtual relationships created on the learning platform. We believe that because of the virtual groups created on the platform and the singularity of the learning goals created, our users will be motivated to participate and keep using the platform to grow both their knowhow and engage with the community.

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Select the key characteristics of your target population.

  • Women & Girls
  • Pregnant Women
  • LGBTQ+
  • Infants
  • Children & Adolescents
  • Elderly
  • Rural
  • Peri-Urban
  • Urban
  • Poor
  • Low-Income
  • Middle-Income
  • Refugees & Internally Displaced Persons
  • Minorities & Previously Excluded Populations
  • Persons with Disabilities
  • Other
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If you selected "Other," please share additional characteristics of your target population here.

Students, Teachers, School leaders, Parents, Gurdians

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In which countries do you currently operate?

  • Uganda
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In which countries do you plan to be operating within the next year?

  • Kenya
  • Nigeria
  • South Africa
  • Uganda
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What are your impact goals for the next year and the next five years, and how will you achieve them?

1) Grow to impact at least 0.5million families, educators and students in low-income, minority, immigrant populations in the East Africa and beyond 

2) Engagement: ArqLan will facilitate 5 million conversations between schools/teachers and parents 

3) Product and technology: Fully build out the current prototype version of the multilingual engagement platform with personalized nudges and content for educators and teachers -- by refining the NLP and machine learning models on topics of conversation and personalization of content 

4) Content: Establish content partnerships for parent/teacher education materials 

In the next 12months, we expect to be serving at least half a million low-income, underserved parents, families and students together with their teachers using the ArqLan platform. For the parents and teachers, we expect them to have increased their capacity and knowledge to support their children's learning, leading to improvements in student performance and confidence in their learning ability. In 3 years, by 2023, we expect to reach at least 5million beneficiaries through the platform, not just in Africa but globally, especially in underserved and culturally diverse communities (e.g., refugee communities) 

Our 5-year vision is to unlock the potential of 15 million families and educators in Africa and more globally, to support their children's learning through the ArqLan parent engagement platform. We plan to do this through 1) growing the number of our institutional partnerships including state/federal governments, school districts, educational non-profits as well as international organizations who reach the undeserved 2) activating teacher and parent communities across different geographies and 3) doubling down on word-of-mouth growth. 

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What barriers currently exist for you to accomplish your goals in the next year and in the next five years?

Financial: Our greatest barrier has been obtaining funding for the development of the idea into a product that can be launched into the education market. This lack of financial strength hinders us from improving the product to enhance exponential growth. Scaling to other parts of the country with minimal internet access is also affected by financial constraints. 

Technical: We also need a Machine Learning expert to help us further enhance ArqLan’s ability to study the educational, behavioural and psychological pattern of students. We believe this can further improve the efficiency of ArqLan’s personalization and inclusion.  

- The other barrier is a lack of partnership especially with organizations to give product advise and mentorship and feedback

- Lack of ability for International expansion.

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How do you plan to overcome these barriers?

Financial: We are looking forward to raising enough money to help us scale exponentially to further help give students access to quality education.  Increase in sales through ads and partnerships and more white-label deals will also help us raise the funds we need for growth. 

Technical: Participating in programs like MIT Solve can help us raise the funding we need, give us access to the right connections, advice and knowledge that will help us hire the right talent.  

- The other barrier is a lack of partnership especially with organizations to give product advise and mentorship and feedback: We're excited to meet organizations working on delivering more accessible and scalable training to educators, not just within the parent-teacher partnership and engagement space ArqLan is in but more broadly. We want to be able to work with educator training organizations/programs who can work with ArqLan in refining our product to deliver digital content to educators/teachers 

- Lack of ability for International expansion: Our solution has potential to scale massively across Africa, the US and more globally, and would be great to explore this opportunity through Solve and the Jacob Foundation network of partners.

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Solution Team

 
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